Archive for August, 2011

Day 37: Home, Safe!

Posted in Roadtrip on August 29, 2011 by roadsidenut

The slow, painful drive home continued on Sunday.  We arrived back in NYC a couple hours after Hurricane Irene’s passing.  Some downed trees in my neighborhood and lots of leaves.   NYC got off much easier than the Catskills where there are rivers cresting at about 20 feet right now.  After all the media drama, Irene was nothing more than a big rain storm here.  In the Park this morning, a few more downed trees and small lakes where there’s normally just grass.  The dogs back to their morning routine (running in the Park) — and I’ll be back to work tonight since the subways are running again.

Trip recap:  This was the most stressful trip I’ve ever taken because of all the mechanical problems.  I blame it on inept mechanics — not Sparkle.   The dealership in Grand Forks finally got it right — no more glitches after that.  For the most part, great weather.  Although it seemed we’d never even get to MN after all the early troubles in the trip, I managed to get through about 80% of my stack.  So that leaves about a week’s worth of stuff undone in WI & MN that will have to wait til a MT & WY trip, probably summer 2013.


Trip stats

days on the road:  36

photos for the website:  approx. 5,100

miles driven:  14,060

total spent on speeding tickets:  $205 (total of two – Ironwood & Manistique, MI; one verbal warning in WI)

total spent on gas:  $3,315

total spent on repairs:
$673 for an A/C compressor (which should be reimbursed, all or part, since the part was less than a month old)
$0 (fuel pump replaced for $995 but then reimbursed when it the fuses continued blowing)
$437 (for three frayed wires and an evaporator vent valve = the resolution of “check engine” light and fuse problem)

Expenses not kept track of:  oil changes/maintenance, motels, food, etc.

Memories, good times, and photos:   more than worth every penny!   And the dogs give the trip an A+.

If you’d like to help with the costs of these trips, the website, all that… no amount is too small, my Paypal account is the same as my email:


Now, on with the final photos from Friday.

The morning started in Marshall — so here’s a couple of shots from the big hotel which, sadly, has been boarded up for years:


A nice mid-century bank in town:

One more from Marshall:

This one from Ghent:


At Brad’s Market in Minneota:



On to South Dakota.  I went to Prairie Village in Madison to check out the steam-powered, super rare Herschell-Spillman carousel.  A madhouse there since they were having a big tractor show.  Which turned out to be pretty interesting.  One of the stars — sputtering and whirring:

I know nothing about tractors but can easily understand the obsession with them:



From Freeman:



On to Yankton — a new city for me and one of the biggest reasons for the extra miles traveling SW of Minnesota even on the last day of shooting:


From Beresford.  The apostrophe probably a mistake, but no matter:



On to Sioux Falls for some reshooting from previous grey trips — and a few things not noticed or shot before:



Although this Burger Time building has a 1960s/1970s look, evidently this chain was founded in Fargo, ND in 1987.  I don’t know if any of the other ND/SD locations have this rootop triangle thingie:



More from Sioux Falls.  It was in the 90s today — so ice cream sounded like a good idea.  The B&G Milkyway rooftop sign has a tilted cone like Dairy Queen and Tastee-Freez.  But I don’t think this place was built as either of those.

I went with the Peach Avalanche — which was vanilla soft-serve with some “real” peach chunks.  Sorry bout the crappy photo — wasn’t going to shoot it but changed my mind in traffic.



Back in Minnesota — from Worthington.  These customized rubber mats are very rare now I think:

And they have a nice embossed plastic sign as well:



Last one for the trip — and I think it’s a kicker.  From St. James.   Art deco borders, great colors, and best of all — the loaf on top:

So, with this trip over, I’ll get back to work on the website in a day or two.  I’m only about halfway through adding the TX & OK photos from the spring.  Hoping to catch up with these two trips’ photos this winter.  Then, it will be time to start planning the next five-weeker.  Spring 2012, the dogs and I will be headed back to western TX so I can finish what I didn’t get to this year.   Then moving on to NM and AZ.  I’ll probably sneak off for a couple quickie trips this fall or winter.

You might want to check in now and then with the “Upcoming Trips” page here at the blog or the “What’s New” page at the website if you don’t want to miss these posts.  Thanks for tagging along with us.  Your comments and praises are much appreciated and give me a real boost.  It keeps me doing posting when I really should be sleeping.  I hope my photos and chatter encourage you to shoot more, travel more, and find art and value in the rusty, crusty, funky places and things that are rapidly disappearing.

Til the next adventure,

Debra Jane
Gripper, Fixie, Sputnik & Gremlin
Sparkle & Dee

Day 35 & 36: Playing it Safe in Pennsylvania

Posted in Roadtrip on August 27, 2011 by roadsidenut

I’ve got lots of great stuff for you from Friday — much of it from SE South Dakota.  I know, I know.  The last day of the trip and what was I doing heading further west instead of east.  There was just some stuff there that I really wanted to shoot — and I knew it would be worth the additional miles.  So, after the final day of shooting on Friday, I started the interstate trek home.  A four-hour nap somewhere just shy of Wisconsin – and then back to I-90 and I-80 all day today.  It was exhausting stuff — all those night’s with little sleep really caught up to me.  The boredom of rolling hills and coffee had little impact.  I took about four quickie naps.  15 minute power naps, even with the dogs jumping around on my back, really helped a lot.  I could have arrived home tonight at 2am — but Irene has kept me away.

I followed the hurricane’s path all day today on the radio.  Earlier in the day, they were saying she would arrive in NYC around dinnertime.  But as the day wore on, the estimate ran later and later.  Now (9pm), they’re saying 7am.  It sounds like power loss is a possibility — not to mention blown out windows, floods, etc.  The mayor shut down the subway system at noon today and it won’t be resumed until Monday night.  Which means I have Monday off – yay!   When I heard that there might be tornadoes in NJ tonight, that was the clincher for me.  I’d rather not get me, a canine buddy, or hard-working Sparkle hit by a tree or power line.   I’ll just stay here in central PA and see what transpires overnight and tomorrow morning.  When it’s safe to return, I’ll get you that final batch of photos & the wrap-up post.

Day 34: Itty Bitty Farm Towns in SW Minnesota

Posted in Roadtrip on August 26, 2011 by roadsidenut

Many miles between stops — bucolic farm land that has gotten pretty damned boring by this point in the trip.  And it’s just a reminder of what’s to come this weekend.  I remember when I was growing up they said freeways of the future would be something where you’d hook up your car or just get in a lane — and you’d be carried along automatically somehow.  What ever happened to that?

Let’s start with this building in St. Joseph.  Built in 1917 so it pre-dates Art Deco – but much in the same vein:


For you fiberglass fans out there — a giant fish in Rockville.  At Rockville Gas & Bait:


From Sauk Centre — stained glass and glass checkerboard:

Also Sauk Centre:

From the same building:

From Osakis — a cowboy at Osakis Meats & Deli.  I’ve seen a lot of cowboy statues in my time but this is a new one on me.  Similar to the bucking bronco type but obviously always a seated type.  I thought for a moment about doing a group shot of the dogs, me & this guy — but there was nobody around to take the photo.  More cowboy statues if you want ‘em here:


Off to Alexandria.  I drove the three blocks to see what other kind of sign the Viking Motel might have — bummer, plastic.


Still Alexandria.  Fans of my Flickr stream can identify this one in a heartbeat.  A futzed-with Sinclair gas station.  You know from the little roof tiles, the peak above the sign, the little Art Deco caps on the columns.  The canopy portion was filled in — as many of them have been.  A little Texas collection — still adding (interrupted by this trip) — for compare/contrast purposes:


And, last one for the day (keeping it short so I can get a bit of extra zzzs for the highway hell to come) — from DeToy’s Family Restaurant in Madison:

That’s a broaster chicken — looks like this sign had neon.  Same top-hatted company chicken / advertising symbol as these statues:

Way more than I want to know as a vegetarian — but maybe you’re interested in the company’s concept:


So — no “real” post with photos tomorrow.  Probably just a quick texty “hi” this weekend to let you know I’m alive. I don’t know if Hurricane Irene will be waiting for us.  At the moment, they’re saying direct hit with NYC on Sunday.  But, most likely, I’ll post Friday’s photo batch on Monday or Tuesday.

Day 33: Central MN – Land of a Million Lakes… and Fish Statues

Posted in Roadtrip on August 25, 2011 by roadsidenut

All good here — perfect weather, sunny and cool.  Little cotton candy clouds most of the day that made me look like a photographer – ha!  An earthquake and an impending hurricane back home in NYC — happy to be missing all of that drama and possible chaos.  If it looks like I’ll be driving into the eye of the storm on Sunday night, then I’ll just pull over and sleep for about 24 hours and scratch work.

Water, water everywhere — meaning every two or three hours we MUST pull over before I go deaf.   Hardly any mosquitos though.  Maybe it’s the zillions of dragonflies that are eating them?

Started the day in Brainerd – home to many giant things.  Including this laundromat reference.  Pole in the way on the sunny side of the sign, forcing me into this off-kilter angle:


More Brainerd — the Log Cabin Bar.  This must have been a kick-ass sign back in the day — with a simulated spinning wheel:


Just south of town, I encountered “World Guy” and his dog “Nice”.  He’s doing all this walking and pushing of the giant globe for diabetes awareness.  More about him and his cause here:


This one from Motley.  Tree in the way — had to shoot shady side.  Obviously, a repurposed sign.  And yes, the ice cream place, which is also just as much an antiques sort of place, is in a former silo:


From Staples:


Also in Staples — this nice glass work.  An eyewear shop in the storefront below now:


One more from Staples.  Even during the day, this neon target sign was lit and hypnotizing.  The rings are lit sequentially.


The Minnesoda Fountain in Park Rapids:


Also in Park Rapids.  This restaurant is still open but unfortunately, these clocks and animated figures are stationary now:


Back to Brainerd on my loop to get to Paul Bunyan Land when it would be open.  I had been hoping that the Paul and Babe that were at Bunyan Bowl (now closed) would be here.  Turns out those statues went to a log cabin homes place in NC:

But this place did get the Babe head that was inside the bowling alley.  It’s not really on display yet since they need to repair it.  This Babe blows steam from her nostrils.  Or is Babe a he?  I seem to recall seeing male body parts on these statues — too exhausted to check.

There are signs here and there at the Old Farm part of Paul Bunyan Land.  Not the neon variety but gas station and plastic signs.  I like this metal sign — Paul or at least a lumberjack:


From Ironton:


Also Ironton.  This nice miner sign hangs on the side of the American Legion Building:


This one from Crosby:


Over in Garrison:


And last one for the day — a goofy Paul & Babe — in front of the Mille Lacs Museum in Isle:


Just two more days to shoot.  I’ve decided to focus on the southwest corner of Michigan for the remainder of the trip.  If I forget to mention it, tomorrow night will be the last blog post until I get home.  Friday night, I’ll be driving and downing coffee trying to lay down some miles towards the 20 hour drive home that I need to get through this weekend.  The final blog post and Flickr photo batch will be on Monday or Tuesday.

Day 32: Cruisin’ in Central Minnesota

Posted in Roadtrip on August 24, 2011 by roadsidenut

No glitches with camera, van or dogs today.  Even the clouds went somewhere else to play today.  The heat is back — lots of river time for the dogs.  Being careful because these rivers are all fast-moving.  Maybe from the rain the other day.  But Grem could be swept away like a leaf if I’m not paying attention and keeping things close to shore.  Nik is powerful enough and experienced enough that he would just drift with the current and paddle towards shore if necessary.  And Fixie — no way she’s putting a toe in moving water.  Grip, the blind gal, stays on leash right next to me whenever there’s water present.

It was all little towns today — most of them only for one or two photos.  But all worthwhile to me.  I think nothing of driving three or four hours for one building or sign.  So, twice as many photos for the blog today as Flickr.  Let’s get to it.

From Jamestown, ND (the giant buffalo quite impressive, the fake Conestoga wagon blocked a lot by tractor trailers).  This sign goes to show it doesn’t take much extra work or money to make a clever and memorable sign:


A few signs from Valley City, ND:

Regular followers of my blog know I’m nuts about opal glass signs.  This one’s pretty rusted-up.  I couldn’t tell if the “Shoe” and “Repairing” were made of some other translucenty material — but probably.  The shoe store still in business:

Lots to look at here:

The Art Deco fan details on this one have been repainted.  “Auto Supply” probably had neon originally — or the entire sign might have been a re-work:


Moving on to Wahpeton, ND:


Make that three Art Deco era signs in a row here.  The sunny side of this one was even more paint-blasted — so I went with the shady side:


Still Wahpeton.  This one has bubble type plastic that I’ve never seen before:


A couple next-door neighbors.  The Good Luck must have been another restaurant originally.

This sign is on top of the liquor store’s canopy (the building is a former gas station).  Neat tail on the arrow:


Back in Minnesota — in Pelican Rapids.  An old creamery building had this nice pelican detail:

Over to Fergus Falls — one of my favorite vitrolite storefronts.  The letters are incised:

Another angle:

And, yes, I did.  This is a treehugger scone (dinner, very filling) and a peach crispie (like pie but smaller and easier to eat):


Also Fergus Falls.  The letters on this sign are made of glass.  Not a style I’ve seen before with the heavy outlining and pretty much flush with the sign panel:

Some stained glass above the Lundeen’s storefront:


Over in Vining — there’s a sculpture park with about a dozen of these sculptures by Ken Nyberg.  I’ll include just a couple of photos and this link for more:


A couple of beer signs at Madsen’s Resort in Battle Lake.  I’ve seen a bunch of these plastic Grain Belt signs — but the paint is always super faded.  This one is mint:

The Hamm’s sign was really hard to shoot under a tree — but it’s faded but nice with the top of the beer glass in high relief.  This faded example in NV shows better what I mean:


From Wadena:


From Clarissa — simple and effective:


Hauer Brothers Electric in Little Falls:


Tomorrow, I’ll be in Paul Bunyan territory — so brace yourselves for lots of photos of him.  I’ve debated about whether to start skimming and get closer to home (Wisconsin) by Friday.  But I think I’ll just plod along following my list and see where I end up here in MN.  Three more days to shoot.

Day 31: Back in Action in Fargo & Central MN

Posted in Roadtrip on August 23, 2011 by roadsidenut

Got rolling again at 2pm.   Cost me $400-something for three frayed wires, new transmission gasket thingie & replacing transmission fluid (again), an evap something or nother.  And hopefully, that’s that — no more trouble rest of trip.

On the way out of Grand Forks, ND, I shot this one for you.  I think those disks cover earlier neon tubing holes — indicating that this sign must have been retexted at least once:

On to West Fargo — a roundie building housing a liquor store:

Lots of stuff from Fargo proper.  Nodak is an appliance, clothing, etc. store.  It’s also the nickname for North Dakota, of course:

Super cute, no?

This is a replica of the original sign — part of a building renovation around 2000.  While I applaud the effort — and it’s a nice big sign which cost quite a lot I’m sure — but I think that channel lettering (metal surround the letters) looks kinda cheesy:

I’m betting there was another name before “Metro”, matching the green color, font, and embossing of the “Drug” portion.  The arrow was probably bulbs or neon.  But I’m grateful that this is still here:

Back to Minnesota for some things.  This one’s in Dilworth:

Also in Dilworth.  I like how the sign is integrated into the building.  And the way those drainage pipes extend way, way out to the edge of the sidewalk:

Out of daylight but Dee came through for this one in Detroit Lakes:

One more from Detroit Lakes before hitting the highway back to ND.  A bar with some decorative glass block:

It was a very long journey back to ND.  I wanted to get to Jamestown to get set up to shoot the giant buffalo, a faux Conestoga wagon, etc.  Should have been a couple of hours from Detroit Lakes but torrential crazy rain with sideways lightening made it a real white knuckle journey.  Had to drive 25 and 30 mph most of the way because I could barely see in front of me and was worried about flash flooding.  But we made it.  Not much sleep but I’ll get by with coffee and knowing I only have four more days to shoot.  From Central MN back to Brooklyn, it’s a 21 hour drive — so there will be no messing around — must hit the interstate on Friday night.

Day 31: Garage Report

Posted in Roadtrip on August 22, 2011 by roadsidenut

9am CST here at Rydell Chevrolet in Grand Forks, ND.  Looks like the transmission thing is any easy fix — a cracked washer.  Whew!  The stalling thing sounds like an “evap sensor”.  Or something to that effect.  So, crossing fingers & toes that we’ll be out of here sometime this afternoon & I can start shooting again.


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